Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Book Review: Margot by Jillian Cantor

It's a creative concept: What if Margot Frank, Anne Frank's older sister, didn't actually die in the Holocaust? What would she be like later? What kind of life would she be living? How would she be affected by the publication of her sister's novel and the later movie?

Ms. Cantor sets this book in 1959, the year the movie came out. "Margie Franklin" is now living in Philadelphia, working at a law firm, and no longer a Jew. She doesn't have many friends, idolizes her boss, and compulsively rereads Anne's diary, furiously trying to figure out the truth behind particular passages, especially as they relate to Peter. She hasn't gotten in touch with her father, who she knows lives in Switzerland with his new life. She might be falling in love with her boss, Joshua. He takes on a new case, a class-action discrimination suit charging a prominent businessman with treating Jews badly at his factory, which shakes her to her core. Her friend Ilsa wants her to come on a trip to Europe, including to Switzerland. And everyone keeps asking her if she's seen the movie, "The Diary of Anne Frank." Naturally, events come to a head.

This book was a very fast read with smoothly flowing language and natural dialogue. Although there wasn't any action per se, the author did a great job of creating tension and even some suspense that often kept me reading "just one more chapter." This was a fantastic book club selection as we discussed issues ranging from the relationship between sisters (which we noted was a topic the author tackles in other books as well), the nature of truth, the truth behind diaries and the complications of unreliable narrators (everyone has accepted Anne's diary as fact but she was a very young, very imaginative girl, and who's to say that everything in her diary occurred in exactly that manner and that we aren't getting a skewed version?) We were impressed with yet another holocaust novel that manages to come up with a fresh and new angle on the tragedy. There was one dropped plot thread (although it could have been an intentional red herring, we're not sure) and some people thought the ending was a little too neatly wrapped up, but those were minor critiques of what was otherwise a really wonderful novel.

I bought this book at B&N.

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